The 2017 European Street Food Awards were, quite simply, a triumph of the human spirit. After a summer of national European Street Food finals (including heats in Russia, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Italy, Sweden, France, Ireland and Britain), the democratically-elected top traders from all across the continent travelled thousand of kilometres by air, land and sea to compete at Bite Club in Berlin. Here is the event page, and here is the official film:
Yes, there were breakdowns on the way to Berlin, run-ins with the police over broken tail-lights, a lost passport or two and a dropped phone — but (once all the European nations had got the hang of German gas and electrical adaptors) it turned into one of those legendary Bite Club weekenders. With the small matter of winning the world’s biggest street food competition at stake. Here are the pictures:
For the first ever European Street Food Awards, we spent a long summer holding national competitions with the coolest street food partners in Europe. Check out this little lot:
Winners from each individual country’s national street food awards – plus a few wild cards, chosen by our industry experts — competed at the finals. At a massive cook-off, the best traders then tried to win votes from Michelin-starred chefs, and the general public. Here is the full list of Europe’s finest, competing to take home the title of 2017’s Best of the Best:
Angelo Polezzi breeds Cinta Senese pigs on his farm in Cortona, Tuscay. This breed of little piggies has been knocking around since the Middle Ages and, when reared free range in Tuscany, are the only European hog breed to have protected DOP status. ‘Our sandwich is made exclusively with the meat of our animals,’ says Angelo. ‘Smoked initially with cherry wood, then cooked at a low temperature, and finally cooked again on the wood-burning barbeque in our truck.’ Then, Porcobrado take things a little further with their sandwich, made by their own hand, from Verna grain grown at their own farm. ‘It’s not pulled pork,’ says Angelo. No, Angelo, it certainly isn’t.
France’s new revolution is taking place on the streets of Paris. Just with fewer riots. This time, it’s led by les street food traders, ranged against the old-fashioned restaurants and their outdated approach to food. One of those traders is Tiugù by A La Main, aka Julien and Antonin – two childhood friends who grew up among a backdrop of Corsican farms and vineyards. When they landed in Paris, the two took up the self-professed roles of ‘Corsican ambassadors’, driving around Corsica hunting down the best producers to work with. ‘Tiùgu is the phonetic pronunciation of the Corsican word “Chjucu” which means “small”’, they say. ‘Like small plates. We wanted the brand to be offbeat, fun, modern and with a Corsican accent. And now we’re taking Corsica to Berlin!’
Dagestanskaya Lavka, Russia
On the outer edges of southern Russia is the caucasus. A place of richly diverse cultures and cuisines, where European influences meet with a sprinkle of west Asian flair. This is especially true of Dagestan, a republic from which Dagestanskaya lavka take their inspiration. Dagestanskaya lavka take the chudu – a traditional Dagestanian pastry, and pimp them up for modern tastes. These are pies with stuffing made from unleavened dough, fried on a dry pan, then buttered. ‘We would like to introduce Berlin to the original food of north caucasian highlands – the food that we know and love,’ says DL. ‘We want to save the authenticity of the mountain dish and present it in a modern way, suitable for the city format.’
Butter Bronson’s, Germany
‘Growing up in Ireland,’ says Ciaran, ‘chicken fillet rolls and burgers were in every chip shop and petrol station across the country.’ What Ciaran does, he says, is ‘basically a souped-up version of this classic Irish lunchtime staple.’ No one can really put it past him. Not when the chicken’s free-range; the brioche bun hand-rolled by a master pastry chef. Besides, a passion for good chicken is carried in the family – Ciaran’s brother is the chap behind one of London’s favourite fried chicken traders. It’s all eyes on Ciaran’s elevated chicken burgers, breaking out of Berlin and into the hands of the European public. What’ll they think?
AmsterDAM! Good Cookies, The Netherlands
This, ladies and gentlemen, is what happens when the cookie and the waffle come together. The Stroopwafel is native to the Dutch town Gouda, where you’ll see the Dutch warm theirs over coffee or hot chocolate to incite molten caramel goodness. AGC sling theirs from an old German fire truck they bought ‘off the internet’ in 2015, all because of an obsession which began in Costa Rica, of all places. ‘In Costa Rica, our business relations really loved sweet, delicious stroopwafels, and we decided to start our own stroopwafel label after returning to the Netherlands.’ If it’s good enough for the Dutch, and good enough for the Costa Ricans, surely it’s only a matter of time before the rest of the world succumbs?
Dim Sum Su, Britain
Sue Chiu-Fan Lee was born in Hong Kong and worked in the family food business as soon as she was old enough to reach the till. She’s now all grown up, and cooking authentic dim sum, gua bao, wontons and spring rolls for discerning customers in the North West of England – exactly the same way her family did back home. The queues for Sue’s bao were impenetrable at last year’s final. And this year, she was voted the public’s favourite. Now, it’s Europe in her sights…
Heaven Street Food, Sweden
These Swedish patty jockeys push out what may seem to be the humble burger: pulled pork or Angus beef, sharp rocket, crispy onions, smoked bacon. All wedged between the fluffiest of brioche buns. Seem a bit simple? Sometimes that’s all you need – their trophy cabinet speaks for itself. ‘We won the Nordic Food Truck Championship in 2015, the Nordic Food Truck Championship in 2016, and the Nordic Food Truck Championship in 2017,’ says Heaven. Not a bad record. But wait – there’s more. ‘The celebrated the food and restaurant writer Mattias Kroon (who’s eaten in 27 of 50 best restaurants in the world) said, “honestly, it’s world class. Superfine, wonderfully rough textured beef with a crispy surface. It’s so juicy I’m skipping bacon next time.”’
L’Agosarada by Contrast restaurant, Catalonia/Spain
Just because you do things the traditional way doesn’t mean you do things the stilted way. Three years ago, true-to-their-roots Mediterranean joint Contrast rolled out onto the streets of Barcelona under the name L’Agosarada. Surely, for a fine dining restaurant, that can’t come easy. ‘Cooking street-side has helped us reinvent ourselves constantly,’ says Carla. ‘As we continue to take risks with traditional recipes, experimenting with them in new formats.’ The reality is L’Agosarada have embraced the non-exclusive way of eating – one where food made for the street, like their sourdough sardine sandwich with spicy pimento, roast peppers and edamame – is actually on the street. So yes, this is more than just a restaurant with a street food side business. ‘It’s a way of understanding cuisine,’ says Carla.
I Love Mauldasch, Germany
Maultasche: a German dumpling from Swabia. But, typically containing meat and spinach, it’s a bit more like ravioli. I Love Mauldasch are in the business of pimping them up, like with their maultaschen burger with caramelized onions and strips of crispy bacon. Apparently, this all happened by accident. ‘We never meant to do street food,’ says Britta. ‘We just started serving maultaschen in a new way.’ They may have been on this circuit for some time, and seen food fashions come and food fashions go, but some things never change. ‘There’s one thing you never lose, no matter how many years you’ve been in business,’ says Britta. ‘A basic level of nervousness. But we came to win and there is a good reason for us to be in the final.’
Baked In Brick, Britain
Lee Desanges cooks outstanding 24-hour marinated chicken tikka over charcoal under the bonnet of a 1964 Mini Cooper — a British classic cooked on a British classic. The winner of the 2016 British Street Food Awards serves it in a naan style flatbread which he cooks in a wood-fired oven on the back of the Mini. Nice. Lee’s adding to his food truck fleet for Berlin, and he’s working on perfecting his mackerel, so we’ll have to wait and see…
Быков Бар or Bykov Bar, Russia
At Bykov Bar, there’s ample beer, simple food, minimalistic furnishings, old-school rock music, and absolutely no WiFi. In other words, it’s Scandi all over. It’s a bar ‘for the brave’, headed up by Alexander Bykov. Moving from Murmansk to Kaliningrad to set up his own bar, Alex took some of the local Murmansk cod along with him. His creation of codfish with potatoes subsequently bowled over the judges at the Russian Street Food Awards during the Kaliningrad Street Food Weekend. And on Bykov’s debut outing, too. That codfish is up for ‘Best Snack’ at the final – what will these judges think?
Triller’s GenussManufaktur, Germany
Heiko Triller, with his modern take on the Austrian classic, is ‘making schnitzel great again’. A nice slogan, but try telling it to your average German. ‘Most of the people started smiling – like ha ha, schnitzel is no street food and it’s not a food truck, just a little tent,’ says Heiko. ‘But when they tried our dishes and saw how we served them, they started smiling again – because they loved what came out of our little stand.’ It’s probably the pork schnitzel with truffle sauce, cucumber, tomato, parmesan, basil and fresh truffle what did it. Or those ‘truffelfries’ – a classic case of the German lexicon of stitching two words, and two great things, together. ‘Fries is the most common side dish with schnitzel in Germany,’ says Heiko. ‘But of course not the only way, so we decided on truffelfries (because we have a very good connection for truffles in Italy). Everything fits perfectly together.’
It’s one heck of a secret ingredient. It isn’t quinoa – or capsicum. Oh no. What makes Wingmans chicken so special? It’s LOVE. Lots and lots of it, apparently, if you’re trying to recreate their recipe at home. But guess what? Chicken helps too. Especially when it’s the sticky crispy fried buttermilk kind of chicken, sideckicked by truffle mac n’ cheese balls. They call themselves the UK’s first ‘authentic wingery’. Bit ambitious. But then again, it’s that kind of ambitiousness what wins European Street Food Awards…
Jones Ice Cream, Germany
Gabrielle’s been serving buttery cookies and ice cream out the back of her ‘65 Citroen HY since 2014. And why not? ‘Ice cream is the perfect “street food”,’ says Jan and Gabrielle. ‘It has always been served out of a truck.’ With 10 years training in fine dining restaurants apiece, Jan and Gabrielle wanted to put that experience into making the best handcrafted ice cream in Berlin. And they’d go to any length to do so. ‘Our truck broke down, again, 3 hours before Bite Club began. But we wanted to attend it so badly that we had it towed through Berlin all weekend long.’ See why they’ve become a Bite Club favourite.